Fitzrovia is an all-day cafe-restaurant from chef Paul Jewson and his partner Marco Pugnaloni, a welcome new addition to the hit-and-miss strip that is Fitzroy Street in St Kilda.  Their most recent collaboration was Outpost Cafe in South Yarra (reviewed here). The restaurant has installed itself in the neighbourhood of Golden Fields and Baker D. Chirico. Just having these couple of places open up along Fitzroy Street shows that the area is turning itself around from being a grungy backpacker hangout / tourist hotspot to an exciting home of new and upcoming restaurants.

It is amazing what the team has been able to do with the space they have. As you enter and make you way through it seems like you arrive in the front garden, walk up the stairs to the balcony or front porch, move into the elevated dining room and from there you have a clear view of the very open kitchen. And by open I mean you could accidentally wander in, no fault of your own and start cooking yourself. I don’t suggest doing this as they have everything pretty much down-pat as it is.

The front room of Fitzrovia has all kinds of sweets, pastries and pretty much anything you need to accompany the coffee that is a prerequisite when visiting. On both occasions we visited there was a small throng of people gathered just inside the doorway, which you could initially interpret as a waiting line – but as this is still relatively secret spot you can usually find yourself seated in a jiffy.

Fitzrovia’s coffee offerings are single estate coffees handcrafted by those blokes down at St ALi in South Melbourne. Head barista Cian Evans is a master of the craft and every coffee that we and our friends have ordered has been consistent in its top quality. If you fancy yourself the home barista they have retail packs to takeaway as well.

On our first visit we got there during the brunch/lunch crossover. I have slowly whittled down WordMonkey’s aversion to pork by getting her to only try the best and tastiest morsels of pig flesh. And when she opts for the pulled-pork sandwich over any number of eggy choices, you know you have not just won the battle but also won the war. And to make matters worse, when discussing what is the best pork sandwich in Melbourne, she has no second place. So that first visit was simply a pigfest. The flavours were all on-song, the pork juicy and flavoursome, the tangy salad exhibiting just the right balance of Asian herbs and apple-fennel crunch.

We returned last week as a precursor to one of the biggest race meets on Melbourne’s calendar – the Cox Plate – in conjunction with WordMonkey’s birthday celebrations. Her and our Bondi buddy got the fizz flowing and it was up to me to ensure the quality of the coffee was still up to scratch – which it was.

Showing up much earlier than our previous visit we had less of a selection but this was a blessing in disguise and we were able to hit a few more dishes rather than reverting to the old pork favourite. WordMonkey decided on asparagus, poached eggs, Daylesford dry-cured bacon crumble and creamy goat’s cheese, with a punchy fennel salad.

While visiting friend had house-smoked Tasmanian ocean trout and toasted quinoa with poached eggs and salad. Rave reviews on all fronts – the only complaint being that the portions were a little small for the price and that we had to order toast to bulk up the brunch. It would have been nice to get toast included. In the end, the toast we did order didn’t turn up until right at the end of the meal. But no dramas, removed from the bill, life goes on.

I opted for the Istra Daylesford dry-cured bacon, smoked mozzarella and pear relish toasted doorstop sandwich.  If anything in that last sentence is not deemed heaven on a plate then I don’t want to know you.  It is the equivalent pork belly sandwich served at St ALi – same dreamy bread and all.  But the bomb was the addition of that gorgeous chewy cheese and the added element of the pear relish.

Fitzrovia is a special little place in a part of the city most people only head to if the weather entices them. The hook that will have people returning to this neck of the woods is that Fitzrovia is also open for dinner. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner being catered for, the team has acknowledged that with spring here and summer around the corner you may not want to be cooped up inside. So taking advantage of the proximity of both St Kilda beach and Albert Park on their doorstep they are offering ‘the ultimate picnic lunch…made fresh on the day using the finest in Victorian produce’. They will even arrange chilled wine or champagne to be waiting for you to pick up at Prince Wine Cellars just down the road.

Fitzrovia

Ph. (03) 9537 0001

155 Fitzroy street

St Kilda, VIC 3182

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